How to watch French TV when you live abroad

Trying to watch French TV channels when you don’t live in France can be a real challenge. Most channels available online apply geographical restrictions so you cannot watch them outside France. You would think they wanted as many people as possible to be able to access their content, but the fact is that they are not allowed to broadcast outside their territory for licencing reasons: If for example they are showing episodes of The Simpsons, the licence they acquired only allows them to broadcast within their territory so as not to compete with other channels that acquired the rights in their own territories.

Channels that are easily accessible

BFMTVThe good news is that geographical restrictions do not apply to channels producing their own content for their exclusive use – news networks for example. This is why you can watch channels such as BFMTV, France 24, or Euronews without any problem. Besides, BFMTV has an excellent free app that allows you to watch their live feed (search for ‘BFMTV’ in your app store).

Another great channel is TV5 Monde which broadcasts selected programmes from French-speaking countries (France, Canada, Belgium, Switzerland…) In their case, they have negotiated worldwide rights with the respective programme producers. The channel is widely available via satellite and cable (Sky or Virgin on the UK).  Check out the TV5 Monde website to check how you can receive it in your country.
Unfortunately, it’s not currently possible to watch TV5 Monde live online, but you can view news programmes on their website as well as a wide selection of videos on their YouTube channel. You will also find a section for French teachers with video clips and educational resources to exploit them.

ArteArte is another interesting channel with programmes in both French and German. Arte is a public Franco-German TV network that promotes programming in the area of culture and the arts. You can watch live and catch up TV via their website and there is also an Arte app for mobile devices and well as for Smart TVs.

French TV via satellite

If you’d like to receive the main channels (TF1, France 2, M6…), the most straightforward way is to get a satellite dish. In the UK, companies such as Fransat or Totalsat can install a dish for around £250. If installing a satellite dish is not practical (e.g. you live in a flat) or out of your price range, there are subscription services such as Téléfrance allowing you to watch a small selection of French channels online and via your Smart TV for £6.99 monthly.

Using a Virtual Private Network

NordVPNIf you’ve tried to view French catch-up TV (or ‘replay’ as it’s called in French – e.g. TF1 Replay, Pluzz by France Télévisions or 6 Play), you will have noticed that all of them apply geographical restrictions. If you want to get around those restrictions, you will need to be a bit tech-savvy. To start with, you will need a VPN (Virtual Private Network) which redirects your connection to the Internet via a remote server run by a VPN provider such as Nord VPN. By connecting to a remote server based in France, you will be able to access content normally only available if you are in France. For more details, check the Nord VPN website.

Using a Virtual Private Network is legal in the vast majority of countries but note that authorities consider it illegal in China, Russia, Turkey, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Belarus, Oman, Iran, North Korea and Turkmenistan.

5 French TV shows you can watch for free online

Kaamelot, a French TV seriesKaamelott

Kaamelott is a satirical interpretation of the King Arthur legend and his Knights of the Round Table. This French TV series explores the comical reality behind the legend, with grotesque characters and absurd situations.

Watch online or get the DVD

Fais pas çi, fais pas çaFais pas çi, fais pas ça

Fais pas çi, fais pas ça gives an insight into two modern French families with radically different visions of education. The Lepic parents try to uphold their traditional Catholic bourgeois values while raising their 4 children, whereas the more liberated Boulay parents try to redefine parenthood, seemingly making it up as they go along.

Watch online or get the DVD

Un gars, une fille

Un gars, une filleUn gars, une fille is a French comedy television series starring Jean Dujardin and Alexandra Lamy, who met during the audition for the series, and started a real-life relationship during the last year of the show. Each 7-minute-long episode depicts the daily life a young couple named Jean and Alex. The pair, nicknamed “Chouchou” and “Loulou”, face an array of hilarious everyday situations. This highly successful French TV series, which gathered 5 million viewers each day, consists of 5 seasons for a total of 486 episodes.

Watch online or get the DVD

Bref

Bref

An anonymous 30-year-old Parisian, unemployed and single, talks about his daily life and ongoing failures. Unlucky in love, he keeps going to lots of parties to meet girls, and learns the guitar to increase his chances. His numerous attempts at finding a job are just as unsuccessful, and he ends up working for a copying machine company despite a disastrous interview. Much to his dismay, his father comes to live with him after getting divorced as a result of an affair with a student.
Bref… you get the idea!

Watch online or get the DVD

Samantha oups !

Samantha OupsThe series deals with the life of a blonde young woman, Samantha, and her brunette best friend, Chantal. As part of the comedic nature of the series, men play both roles. The series is presented in a “shortcom” (short sitcom) format, with each episode generally running for approximately 5 minutes each. Each episode features Samantha and Chantal attempting various activities or careers, with varying, comedic results.

Watch online or get the DVD